A few weeks before Rosalind’s spasms
began, a friend from church had a picture that we were about to
enter a dark tunnel. Although she could see a bright light at the
far end of it, she sensed that we were not going to reach that light
Other warnings followed hard on the
heels of this picture. A few days later I had an intensely dramatic
dream in which I was being pursued by a monster of a bull that was
charging straight towards me. There seemed no conceivable way that I
could avoid its lowered horns. I woke with the bull still racing
across the field in pursuit of me.
A few days later I had another dream.
On this occasion a thick cloud of midges was heading straight
towards me. Again, there was no way I could avoid them. I could feel
them crawling all over my face – and yet I had not been bitten.
I know enough about dreams to realise
that if the same theme is repeated more than once, it is likely to
be significant, and quite possibly urgent.20 Often, the reason for
such dreams and impressions is that the Lord is allowing us to
glimpse the scenarios that Hell is seeking to bring about.
The Lord permits this so that we may
rally our defences, spring to action stations and pray away the
dangers we have foreseen – or, at the very least, reduce the effect
At the same time – and here we see
again the paradoxical nature of so much that we associate with grief
experiences – we have also discovered that the Lord often uses these
perilous and unpleasant situations to catapult us forward into some
new phase of our lives.21
Within a few weeks of these dreams,
we found ourselves beset by difficulties, culminating in the
extraordinary spasms that convulsed Ros. The fact that we had
experienced many such tests before helped us to endure those
We are also aware that attacks tend
to come in proportion to the significance of the task we are engaged
in. Not only is there often “backlash” after some major step
forwards, there may also be intense “pre-lash.” After all, the best
time to attack an aircraft is while it is still on the runway.
When the powers of darkness are
launching assault after assault against us, the more resolute we are
in counter them with prayer and declarations of faith, the less
power they have over us. It is better still if we can identify the
source of the attack and come specifically against it. It is only
when we heed our fears that we lose sight of the fact that God still
has good things in store for us.
For the time being, however, His
plans remained entirely hidden from view, because we were still in a
“tunnel.” Tunnels block out light, and cause any words that are
spoken to bounce off the walls, echoing and distorting them to the
point where we are not sure what it is that we are hearing.
From time to time, the path we are
ascending is so rugged that we are required to advance by faith
alone. When Jeremiah lamented how hard he was finding his calling,
and the opposition that was coming even from his own family, the
Lord’s reply appears almost brusque.
||“If racing against mere
men makes you tired,
how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?”
Effectively, the Lord was
telling him to use what he had learned during this present
round of difficulties to help him cope with the tougher
times that lay ahead.
Horatio Spafford must have understood
this when he wrote this hymn, whose words have become well known all
around the world.
||When peace like a river
attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
You might be forgiven for
supposing these words to have been penned by an exquisitely
happy man in a mid-summer rose garden, surrounded by his
adoring family. In reality, they were written in the middle
of the Atlantic, as Horatio made his way to rejoin his
Spafford had previously sent his wife
and four daughters on ahead of him to Europe, but the ship had
collided with another vessel, and all four of his daughters had
drowned. Spafford had already experienced much suffering in his
life, but this still greater test lent yet more authenticity to his
||Though Satan should
Though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound
and the Lord shall appear,
Even so, it is well with my soul.23
Sharing our emotional pain is
important, but it would be naďve to expect griefs as great
as these to disappear overnight simply because we have
spoken them aloud. Like Job we may find ourselves lamenting:
||If I speak, my pain is
not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away. O God,
You have ground me down and devastated my family.
The best way to handle those
agonizing times when we are unable to sense the Lord’s
presence is often just to act as if God is in control and
knows exactly what He is doing – for the simple reason that
It is not hypocrisy to act as if the
Lord is close by – He is. This is why it is important not to hang on
to truths and practices that have served us well in the past.
Despite the dead weight of our feelings, we will benefit from
attending to necessary practical matters. Apart from anything else,
this will bring us the comfort of knowing that we are keeping on top
of our workload, as well as sparing us from too much introspection.
Better times will return, and we will
be grateful that we kept moving through the tunnel. The Lord is
still on His throne, and even the most intense sadness will lift in
time. The day finally dawned when Jacob declared, “You will no
longer be called Son of my sorrow, but Benjamin, the Son of my right
Neither do I imagine Rachel weeping
to the end of her days.24 Somewhere along her journey, the Lord will
have found ways to call this grief-stricken woman back to life. Just
as He found ways to restore Naomi after her great losses in the book
of Ruth, so He will draw us out again into a more spacious place.